Sunday, June 28, 2015

Price of Vengeance

The first installment of author Kurt D. Springs’ Dreamscape Warriors series opens with sundry publisher information, such as the basis of their creed upon Psalm 68:11, although the story itself doesn’t have much religious overtone. A map of the primary setting, New Olympia, the novel also provides, alongside the dedication to the memory of the writer’s high school teacher, Stanley M. Gorski. The prologue that follows focuses on a married couple, Lidia and Marcus, who have a seven-year-old son named Randolf, and come to adopt the two-and-a-half-year-old Liam when his parents Seámus and Deidre wind up dead, the initial chapter ending with the philosophical creed that democracies fall when one man forces others to do what he thinks right.

The main chapters occur a score after the prologue, where Liam is grown-up and he and other soldiers prepare for transport to outposts, which his adopted brother Randolf says are quiet. A special Festival is forthcoming, with the backstory revealed that Liam is scion of farmstead folk, and reference to William Shakespeare’s play Henry V, which is basically the sole reference to other literature within the story. Constituting a significant portion of the story is when characters “dreakwalk,” which the novel denotes with indentation of text, a feature common among the book’s telepathic characters.

The main antagonist is a man named Licinious, and Liam himself finds the companionship of a “bear-lizard” named Swift Hunter, who communicates with his human friend telepathically. Also fulfilling an antagonistic role is a creeping evil known as “chitin,” which never really reveals concrete description as far as this reviewer saw within the text, with quite a few parts that drove him to go back and reread portions, and things such as hyperlinks between Irish Gaelic terms that occur primarily towards the end and their English equivalents would have been welcome. Even so, this is a good first entry of the author’s franchise, and is recommended reading.

About the Author

 Kurt D. Springs is presently an adjunct professor of anthropology and archaeology in New Hampshire. He holds a PhD. in anthropology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, as well as a Master of Literature in archaeology from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and a Master of Liberal Arts in anthropology and archaeology from the Harvard University Extension School. His main area of interest is megalithic landscapes in prehistoric Ireland. He also reviews science fiction and fantasy on his blog Kurt’s Frontier.
Connect with Kurt:    Website  ~   Twitter  ~   Facebook

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Author Sally Ann Melia dedicates the third and thus far most recent installment of her Guy Erma and the Son of Empire series, with an illustration opening the main text depicting the franchise’s titular protagonist Guy Erma, dark-haired and clothed. The story itself commences with the ironically-named Interlude (which would have been a fitting name in the longer version of the series’ combined three books) focusing on Ambassador Nikato Valvanchi II and his father, Ex-Ambassador Nikato Valvahnchi I, who discuss the recent reelection of Chart Segat as a result of the Dome Debate, and the implementation of “Phase 2,” which causes some controversy between the patriarch and scion.

Exile continues chapter numbering from its predecessor akin to how the Lord of the Rings trilogy continues with “book” numbering among its three entries, and in this case, Chapter 26 is the main opening chapter, where cyborg bodies litter the Dome, with Prince Teodor’s fate unknown, although Karl Valvanchi investigates, the Dome Elite failing to find him, as well, and Karl himself sending out a telepathic message for want of communication. The Prince and Guy Erma ultimately rendezvous, vowing to escape the dome together while evading the authorities, with the Sas Darona Liberation Army (SDLA) further stealing poison pills and threatening to use them as an act of terrorism.

Other illustrations within the text include the white-haired and eyed, dark-skinned and clothed Nikato Valvanchi, a few pictures depicting Guy Erma and Teodor, where it’s somewhat difficult to tell the two apart due to similar appearance and attired, the ironically-gray feline goran Blue Barbarina (the epilogue dedicated to her origins), the turquoise-haired Nell Valvanchi, and the Dome Medallion. The appendix at the end is helpful as well, and doesn’t require gross readjustment of the Kindle app’s text size to view properly, an issue in the third entry’s predecessor .mobi files. Ultimately, the thus far final Guy Erma and the Son of Empire novel is an enjoyable conclusion, with only a few shortcomings such as the lack of a helpful clarification in the appearances of the Prince and Guy Erma. 

Author's Bio:
The author was born in Wallasey, England, in 1964, and moved to the South of France when she was eleven. She spent her teenage years living in the cosmopolitan city state of Monaco and became immersed in its many languages and cultures. An English girl in a French school, for three hours each week she would sit at the back of the class as her colleagues learnt English. To pass the time, she wrote stories. This led to a lifetime of writing novels, scripts, stories and articles.

In her working life, Sally writes marketing communications and manages large international websites.

In 2010, Sally joined the Hogs Back Writers, a club located on the outskirts of Guildford, and she set about turning an old manuscript into this novel: Guy Erma and the Son of Empire. Sally currently lives in Farnham, and she is married with two children.

Connect with Sally:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Pinterest

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What They See

This self-help guide promises that first impressions count in the workforce, and yearns to give advice on how to leave a positive impression in the workplace. Author Jennifer Swanson reflects upon her skills in the fields of communication and human relations, her intended target audience including students, graduates, job seekers, and anyone that seeks to fulfill professional ambitions. Fellow self-help author Sandy Chernoff lauds the book, noting its ease to follow, while Dr. Jennifer Newman notes the book is light-hearted and easy-to-follow, promising advice on things such as how to recover from mistakes.

Within the book’s introductory pages is a disclaiming indicating that readers who follow the guide agree that the author and publisher won’t be held responsible for possible negative effects the book may have in the workplace. Swanson dedicates the book to Katie and Ben for bringing joy into the author’s life, Scott for his endless support, Emma and Sarah for their enthusiasm, Bruce for his humor, her mother for being a cheerleader, and to Little Bandit, likely a pet, for keeping her feet warm while writing the book.

Before the main text as well is an acknowledgements section where Swanson notes that numerous people inspired the production of the book, such as regular readers and podcast participants for their interest in better communications relationships. She thanks gurus whom she follows regularly, the Podcast Mastermind Alumni for technical help and guidance, a women’s club for friendship and learning opportunities, Sandy Chernoff’s mentorship, various teaching and ministry colleagues, her proofreaders, and various friends and family.

In the introduction, Swanson supposes that her hypothetical readers come from various categories, such as those that graduated and are ready to enter the workforce, the writer noting herself a jenny of all trades, one of her occupations being a healthcare class professor at a community college. She assumes things such as the reader seeking quick tips they can put into place immediately, and assures her audience the definition of professionalism and how to be a professional promptly when entering a new occupation.

Chapter One focuses on what to do upon receiving employment, bringing up the expression that job seekers have only seven seconds to make a good impression, the author reducing this to a tenth of one, and that there are things beyond and within an employee’s control. She suggests new jobholders to ask questions during their probationary period of employment, and that in most occupations employees can be professional, highlighting an example of working in a sandwich shop. The writer notes eleven professional attributes such as a positive attitude, nine skills an employer wants such as organization, and things workers receive in professionalism.

Chapter Two highlights attitude, with a simple suggestion to remain positive in the workplace and various consequences of positive and negative emotions. Swanson gives a checklist for pessimists with relation to their jobs, one of the questions being whether they like their current occupation or not. She emphasizes humility as well, suggesting that workers not think that they’re better than everyone else, and gives characteristics of humbleness. Gratitude proves important as well, with little things such as thanking employers and fellow employees going a long way. Mentions of how to be gratuitous, generosity, and a willingness to learn conclude the second chapter.

Chapter Three focuses on clothing, Swanson noting that many jobseekers will ask what they’re supposed to wear and what their attire says about them. She suggests a step-by-step experiment where readers go out without doing things such as wearing makeup or aftershave, note their consequential treatment, and frequent the same places again while dressing formally and indicating the difference in their reception. The author states that jobseekers should note their working environment, the dress code of their workplaces, and their target audiences, highlighting various parts of dress codes such as hats, sometimes a necessity depending upon an occupation, and that personal hygiene is a must.

Chapter Four focuses on what Swanson terms paralanguage, which is defined as everything around words themselves, including one’s voice and speech speed. She provides another experiment where readers say a phrase with various emotions, suggesting occasional “non-stock” responses to wake the listener out of the mundane. The author provides a poem she wrote back in 2010, after which comes a discussion on spatial conversation, giving a list on how to tell if an employee is making a fellow worker feel uncomfortable. Then comes a talk about nonverbal communication, which some suggest can account for three-fourths of communication, and concludes with other topics such as social media sites, cellphones, and chewing gum.

Chapter Five provides a detailed discussion on verbal communication, with a list of advice such as using “I” language that emphasizes an employee’s thoughts about a situation without using terms such as “they.” She further advises practicing active listening, acknowledging its potential difficulty, and provides pointers on how to improve skills in this area. Then comes a discussion on closed and open questions, the former seeking quick response and the latter more detailed replies. Concluding the section is a discussion on voice and tips on how to improve one’s skills in the area.

Chapter Six discusses the importance of wise word choice, suggesting an aversion to slang since odds are some listeners might not understand the speaker. Swanson further presents a list of common clichés such as “better late than never,” and discussions things such as colloquialisms more commonly spoken than written, jargon specific to a particular field,, and filler words, providing a list of these.  Concluding the chapter is an advisement for employees not to pad their speech, and to say what they wish in as few words as possible.

Chapter Seven touches upon work ethic, providing readers a list of questions to ask themselves, and follows with tips on time management. Swanson emphasizes the importance of punctuality and prioritization, and urges employees to be mindful of their break time and not abuse it, providing a list of what workers should do when they respect break time. She follows with a discussion on cliques more present in larger businesses, giving a brief list of what to watch for, and again emphasizes the need to choose words carefully given the potential for gossip to arise within the workplace.

Chapter Eight emphasizes accountability, Swanson suggesting that it can be more important than accuracy and that it’s a professional quality, and noting a mistake she made in a healthcare job. She gives a list of what to do if one messes up at work, and notes the importance of learning from mistakes, following with an analogy of the common aspects of Silly Putty, the Slinky, chocolate chip cookies, and Scotchgard. After this is advice on how to fail gracefully and learn from mistakes, and gives steps for things such as consequences of not achieving goals and what an employee will do now if he or she doesn’t get ahead as planned. Concluding the chapter are the good, bad, and ugly aspects of giving and receiving feedback.

Chapter Nine deals with stress management, opening with a checklist of indicators, which mention that stress can ultimately lead to chronic ailments. She discusses how to manage stress with things such as speaking little and listening more. Chapter Ten moves on to management and reduction of conflict in the workplace, discussing the various styles such as avoiding and competing. Swanson highlights a situation where an employee might refuse a request, and that producing various stories for the fellow employee’s response might produce conflict later. She gives various steps on how to avoid conflict while simultaneously being assertive without coming across as rude.

Swanson concludes her self-help guide with a story of a hotdog salesman, and follows with a bonus chapter involving the potential benefits of taking particular risks such as not doing the same things repeatedly; she ends with a bibliography and personal biography. Ultimately, this is an excellent resource for those seeking to be shining examples of employees, and this reviewer, as one who has had both positive and negative experience in the workplace, would have definitely appreciated its advice were he still in the market for a job, and highly recommends this helpful, detailed guide.

Author's Bio:

Jennifer Swanson has been teaching Communication and Human Relation skills since 1993 to college students entering the medical field. She is also the creator/host of the Communication Diva Podcast, which has an international audience and helps people in deepening workplace and personal relationships through more effective communication. In addition to teaching young adults, Swanson is an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, has worked in the Youth and Family Ministry for 3 years, has a Master's Degree in Public and Pastoral Leadership, and is a certified conflict coach and Master NLP Practitioner. She is also a mother and step-mother to two young adults and two teens. Swanson draws upon years of expertise as she shares her passion for inspiring others to reach their full potential with readers and audiences worldwide.

Connect with Jennifer:     Website  ~  Facebook  ~   Twitter 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Nature's Confession

This J.L. Morin novel promises an epic yarn about a pair of teenagers that struggle to save their world from global warming, opening with praise from critics that appreciated its environmental themes, the book dubbed climate fiction, or “cli-fi.” Morin, unsurprisingly, dedicates the novel to “unconquerable” Mother Nature, and gives statistics about how governments hand out nearly two trillion dollars towards polluting industries. The author further gives thanks to a scientist, Dr. Thomas Mowbray, for his research into antipatterns, although they seem to play a minimal role at best within the story.

Morin names but doesn’t number the chapters in Nature’s Confession, with each beginning with an illustration somewhat related to the title and a quote either fictional or nonfictional, the quotation aspect present in other science fiction stories such as the Dune series. Among the mentioned fictional quotes are those from the Legend of MakSym, a boy born in year two “After Corporatism.” The protagonist’s name is Boy, who dreams of saving a girl from a giant spider and is likened to the fictitious hero Tyree, whom the Emperor of Earth and Sea seeks, with Tyree being a “hacker hero,” and the reasoning behind Boy’s identity being that parents in the dystopian future don’t feel safe naming their scion.

The author occasionally injects her ideology into the novel, noting that deaths from handguns vastly outnumber those from terrorism, with the Emperor, for instance, suggesting allowing private citizens to keep firearms as a form of population control. An incident eventually drives Boy and his parents from their home on the lam into space, with occasional twists towards the end and first-person chapters narrated by an animal. Overall, this is an enjoyable science fiction novel that’s not overly-preachy about its themes, although there are some headscratchers, and this reviewer found himself unable to answer the discussion questions following the main text without going back and really giving the book another once-over.

Author's Bio:

Novelist and rooftop farmer, JL Morin grew up in inner city Detroit and wrote her Japan novel, Sazzae as her thesis at Harvard. It was a Gold medalist in the eLit Book Award, and a Living Now Book Award winner. She took to the road, traveling around the world, worked as a TV newscaster, and wrote three more novels. Adjunct faculty at Boston University, J. L. Morin, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2011. She is the author of Travelling Light, and ‘Occupy’s 1st bestselling novel’ Trading Dreams, a humorous story that unmasks hypocrisy in the banking industry and tosses corruption onto the horns of the Wall Street bull. She writes for the Huffington Post, and Library Journal, Sustainable Cites Collective, and has written for The Harvard Advocate, Harvard Yisei, Detroit News, Agence France-Presse, Cyprus Weekly, European Daily, Livonia Observer Eccentric Newspapers, the Harvard Crimson and others.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook